A gunman shot and killed more than two dozen people during a Sunday service at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, state officials said.
Police say the shooter, who has been identified as 26-year-old Devin P. Kelley of New Braunfels, Texas, walked inside the church and opened fire just before 11:30 a.m. local time.
Kelley was dressed in a mask and tactical gear and used a semi-automatic rifle to unload “clip after clip” into the church, a neighbor who witnessed the shooting told San Antonio’s ABC affiliate KSAT News.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott confirmed that 26 people were killed and as many as 30 other wounded in the shooting. The death toll makes the attack the deadliest shooting at a place of worship in American history.
“We all know what happened here today. It’s something we all say does not happen in small communities,” Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt said at a Sunday evening press conference. “Today we found out that it does.”
The victims ranged from 5 to 72 years old, officials said. First responders found 23 dead bodies inside the church, two more outside, and one person who was transported to a hospital but later died.
One of those killed was a 14-year-old girl named Annabelle Renee Pomeroy, her father Frank Pomeroy confirmed to ABC News. Frank Pomeroy, who is a pastor at First Baptist, said he was in Oklahoma for the weekend, one of the rare instances when he is not at the church on Sunday.
As Kelley exited the church, he was confronted by a local resident armed with his own weapon, according to Texas Department of Public Safety Regional Director Freeman Martin. The resident began firing at the gunman, causing him to flee in his vehicle toward neighboring Guadalupe County.
“The local citizen pursued him,” Martin said, adding that the gunman was found deceased behind the wheel after running off the road about 11 miles north of the shooting scene.
“We don’t know if it was a self-inflicted gunshot wound or if he was shot by our local resident who engaged him in a gunfight,” he said.
Shortly after the shooting, FBI agents and Texas Rangers arrived at First Baptist to assist with the investigation, according to KSAT reporter Max Massey. San Antonio police officers and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were later dispatched to search the shooter’s house and vehicle for explosives.
FBI just arrived on the scene. The scene is getting pushed back. pic.twitter.com/vyIyNPZHou
— Max Massey (@MaxMasseyTV) November 5, 2017
First responders called in several medical helicopters to transport victims to nearby hospitals. Eight of the wounded were transported to Brooke Army Medical Center and at least 10 other victims were taken to Connally Memorial Medical Center in Floresville, Texas, reports the San Antonio Express-News.
President Donald Trump said he had been briefed on the incident and was monitoring the situation from Japan.
“My Administration is providing its full support to the state and local authorities investigating this horrible crime,” he said in a statement Sunday night. “I have spoken with Governor Abbott, and we offer our thanks to the first responders who ultimately stopped the suspect and rendered immediate and lifesaving aid to the victims of this shooting. I will continue to follow developments closely.”
Sutherland Springs is a small town of about 650 residents located 35 miles east of San Antonio.
This is a developing story and will be updated as more information is learned.
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